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    Stealth in the Sea: The F-22 Raptor’s Naval Variant that Never Took Flight

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    The remarkable stealth, speed, and payload of the F-22 Raptor quickly established it as the dominant fighter jet in the skies. Naturally, the Navy considered adapting this formidable aircraft for its own needs.

    FILE PHOTO — The F-22 is an air-superiority fighter with improved capability over current Air Force aircraft. From the inception of the battle, the F-22’s primary objective will be to establish air superiority through the conduct of counter air operations. The F-22 also has an inherent air-to-surface capability. A combination of improved sensor capability, improved situational awareness, and improved weapons provides first-kill opportunity against the threat. (U.S. Air Force photo)

    The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor was the first fifth-generation fighter jet to take flight. This American platform became an instant legend and remains arguably more formidable than newer fighter jets.

    With its combination of supermaneuverability, stealth, and supercruise capabilities, the Raptor is a cornerstone of the U.S. Air Force’s aerial strategy.

    Update 5 AIM-9X Separation First guided launch. China Lake 1.2 M 19.5K 1G Test 722 Flight 132-339 Mission 10030.

    At one point, the Navy sought its own carrier-capable variant, known as the “Sea Raptor.” However, this version never materialized.

    FILE PHOTO — An F-22 Raptor in full afterburner during flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The Raptor is the replacement for the F-15 Eagle. It is the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world, combining a revolutionary leap in technology and capability with reduced support requirements and maintenance costs. The F-22’s integrated avionics gives it first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability that guarantees U.S. air dominance for decades. (U.S. Air Force photo)

    The Raptor emerged from the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program. Designed in the 1980s as the ideal air superiority fighter, the F-22 was developed to address the perceived “mission deficiency” against the Soviet Union’s expanding fleet of modern fighters.

    Arguably, the Raptor’s most remarkable feature is its exceptionally small radar cross-section.

    This older platform is at least five times less detectable than the F-35 Lightning II. It is powered by two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines, which collectively produce approximately 70,000 pounds of thrust.

    In terms of armament, the F-22 boasts three internal weapons bays. In its stealth configuration, the jet can carry two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and six AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) in its side weapons bays, along with two AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two GBU-32 JDAM bombs.

    The Raptor’s remarkable stealth, speed, and payload quickly established it as the dominant fighter jet in the skies. Consequently, the Navy considered adapting the F-22 to meet its own requirements.

    A 90th Fighter Squadron F-22A Raptor escorts a Russian TU-95 Bear flying near the Alaskan NORAD Region airspace Nov. 22, 2007. This marked the first time a Raptor was called upon to support the ANR mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

    To make the jet carrier-capable, Lockheed Martin would have needed to implement several critical design modifications. The Navy variant would require a variable sweep-wing design similar to that of the F-14 Tomcat.

    However, this specific design posed a challenge for engineers, as it would compromise the aircraft’s small radar cross-section and stealth capabilities.

    Shortly after the Raptor entered production, the collapse of the Soviet Union changed the strategic landscape for the U.S. military, reducing the immediate necessity for the F-22. As a result, production was limited to 187 units.

    KC-135R Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor The F-22 Raptor, developed at Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the replacement for the F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighter and will become operational early in the next century. It combines stealth design with the supersonic, highly maneuverable, dual-engine, long-range requirements of an air-to-air fighter, and it also will have an inherit air-to-ground capability, if needed. The F-22’s integrated avionics gives it first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability that will guarantee U.S. air dominance for the next three decades. The KC-135 Stratotanker’s principal mission is air refueling. This asset greatly enhances the U. S. Air Force’s capability to accomplish its mission of Global Engagement. It also provides aerial refueling support to U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and allied aircraft. Four turbofans, mounted under 35-degree swept wings, power the KC-135 to takeoffs at gross weights up to 322,500 pounds (146,285 kilograms). Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the tanker’s flying boom, the KC-135’s primary fuel transfer method. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue, attached to and trailed behind the flying boom, may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. An operator stationed in the rear of the plane controls the boom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Robertson)

    The subsequent F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a true multirole aircraft, became the focus for all service branches.

    Instead of developing a carrier-capable variant of the Raptor, the Navy opted for the F-35C Lightning II.

    The Navy’s F-35 variant is highly advanced, featuring state-of-the-art sensors capable of managing aerial battles and conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. This carrier-capable variant is expected to serve the Navy for decades to come.

    Relevant articles:
    F-22 Sea Raptor: Stealth Fighter ‘Beast’ Flying from U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers, The National Interest

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